The Sabbatical year, why the poor remains poor

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poor familyIn the previous article, The Sabbatical year, why the land must lie fallow ,we have shared with you why the land must be left to lie fallow. YHVH is the owner of the land; we are the stewards and are to do what He commands. Apart from that, we have learned how the land benefits from keeping this commandment by rejuvenating and regenerating itself. We then benefit from the crops that are produced. Without letting the land rest; the soil eventually dies and becomes barren. YHVH has another reason for us to keep this commandment, a very important reason, it is about debt and poverty.

In giving this commandment to keep the Sabbatical year, YHVH also made sure the poor are taken care of. This is done in three ways. Let us look at what is written about this in Scripture.

Provision for the poor

The first time we are commanded to keep the Sabbatical year is in the book of Exodus. Here, we learn that the land is to be left to lie fallow. Whatever comes up by itself in the field can be eaten by the needy of our people and by the animals. In this way, YHVH is making provision for the poor.

Exodus 23:11
11 but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

This commandment is repeated in Leviticus. Here, more detail is given.

Leviticus 25:6–7
6 ‘All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. 7 ‘Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.

ALL crops are to be left on the land; no harvesting is to be done. All the produce is to be left on the land for consumption. We shall show you in the next article why we include all produce.

Another instruction deals with debt.

Remission of debt

All debt owed to us by a brother is to be released.

Deuteronomy 15:1–3
1 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. 2 “This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because YHVH’s remission has been proclaimed. 3 “From a foreigner you may exact it, but your hand shall release whatever of yours is with your brother.

Debt may be exacted from a foreigner, but not from a brother. This “brother” refers to a brother in faith.

Deuteronomy 15:7–11
7 “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which YHVH your Elohim is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; 8 but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. 9 “Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to YHVH against you, and it will be a sin in you. 10 “You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing YHVH your Elohim will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. 11 “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’

We are to use discernement in this, as there are many schemers out there who may want to take advantage of your obedience to YHVH. Maybe that is why YHVH said “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land.” it implies that it is someone you know well.

Another commandment deals with the releasing of slaves. You may wonder what slaves have to do with the poor and indebted.

Release of slaves

A slave shall not serve his or her master more than six years. In the seventh year he or she is to be released unless he or she chooses to become a bond-servant.

Deuteronomy 15:12
12 “If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free.

Slavery within the Hebrew community is not to be compared with slavery that was practiced later in history, where people were abducted and taken to other countries to live out a miserable life. In Biblical times, it was different. If someone became indebted and could not repay their debt, they would offer their children or themselves as slaves. These slaves became part of the household of the master and were treated well. This slavery is additionally only for a limited period, a maximum of six years after which the slave is set free in the seventh year. They are also not sent away empty-handed, but were provided for adequately in order to make a fresh start. At this time, the former slave’s debt would also be canceled as we just saw in the previous section.

The Sabbatical year was thus, in more than one way, a blessing to the poor of the land. It gave them an opportunity to start over, a new beginning. They could take food off the land for consumption; their debt was canceled and if they sold themselves or family into slavery, they would be released. The keeping of the Sabbatical year would, for these reasons, be very important for someone with limited or no means.

Keeping the Sabbatical year

YHVH promises to bless us if we keep this commandment. If we keep this, there will be no poor among us. Just read this…

Deuteronomy 15:4–6
4 “However, there will be no poor among you, since YHVH will surely bless you in the land which YHVH your Elohim is giving you as an inheritance to possess, 5 if only you listen obediently to the voice of YHVH your Elohim, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today. 6 “For YHVH your Elohim will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.

It is interesting to note that here YHVH said that if this commandment is kept, that there will be no poor among us, However, a few verses further He said that “For the poor will never cease to be in the land,” YHVH knew that the Sabbatical years won’t be kept perfectly…

What happens if the land Sabbath is not kept? It has major socio-economic implications. The poor are not fed; slaves remain slaves and those who are indebted remain so. Pretty much like the society we live in today where many people are financially extended way above their capability to repay.

We read about this in the book of Proverbs. When I first read this verse, I was not sure what it meant. After thinking it over for a while, it made sense to me.

Not keeping the Sabbatical year – injustice

Proverbs 13:23
23 Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor, But it is swept away by injustice.

Take note that “abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor” What does “fallow ground” represent? Fallow ground represents the Sabbatical year. The Sabbatical year is about leaving the land to lie fallow. Whatever comes up by itself is for your own consumption, but also for the poor and the animals to eat. We have seen that the Sabbatical year is moreover about releasing slaves and remitting of debt. We have seen who were slaves in those times; those who had to enslave themselves because of debt. So, when the Sabbatical year is not kept, “abundant food” is swept away from the poor by injustice. This injustice is greed. It is because of greed that people would not keep the Sabbatical year. What are the results of this greed? Slaves are kept in bondage; debt is not canceled and nothing is left in the field for the poor to eat.

So, the keeping of the Sabbatical year is not only about the land, it is about providing for the poor too. By not keeping the Sabbatical year, the poor become even poorer and remain enslaved and in debt. This then actually results in a severe socio-economic breakdown. These people may commit all kinds of crimes in order to live. We are not saying that this is acceptable for them to do, we want to show you the consequence of not keeping YHVH’s commandment.

Read the next verse in Proverbs. Here, proper disipline is explained and it fits well with the previous verse.beggar

Proverbs 13:24
24 He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

How are these two verses connected? Think about this…

Think about Leviticus 26, YHVH tells us how he plans to discipline us if we do not keep the Sabbatical year. We have written about this at length in the article If you will not return to Me… The mess we are in, is a direct consequence of not having kept the Sabbatical years. What we are experiencing is YHVH’s disipline. He is calling us to return to Him.

Solomon then continues…

Proverbs 13:25
25 The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, But the stomach of the wicked is in need.

Could this also allude to the result of these curses? It is a spiritual principal that each of us shall reap what we sow.

Job 4:8
8 “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity And those who sow trouble harvest it.

Galatians 6:7
7 Do not be deceived, Elohim is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

We will reap what we sow. By not keeping the Sabbatical year, or partaking of the products of those who don’t, we are jointly responsible for the socio-economic breakdown we see around us, the injustice to the poor, and as we have seen in the previous article, the making barren of the soil. We are stewards in YHVH’s kingdom.

Stewards

As stewards, we are responsible to do what we do according to YHVH’s plan. This means we are to be obedient to Him.

1 Corinthians 4:1–2
1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Messiah and stewards of the mysteries of Elohim. 2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.

Let us just look at what a steward is in more detail. According to the New Strongs guide a steward is a head, ruler, overseer or a manager.

STEWARDS

8269 sar (1), head, ruler

3623 ŏikŏnŏmŏs (3), overseer, manager2

Here is the definition according to the Dictionary of Biblical languages.

3874 οἰκονόμος (oikonomos), ου (ou), ὁ (ho): n.masc.; ≡ Str 3623; TDNT 5.149—1. LN 46.4 manager of a household (Lk 12:42; 16:1, 3, 8+); 2. LN 37.39 administrator, one who has authority and responsibility for something (1Co 4:1, 2; Gal 4:2; Tit 1:7; 1Pe 4:10+); 3. LN 57.231 οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως (oikonomos tēs poleōs), city treasurer (Ro 16:23+)3

When we read what a steward is and knowing that we are stewards in YHVH’s kingdom, we sure do realize the huge responsibility that goes with this. We are administrators or managers; we are given authority to do everything we do according to YHVH’s will while we are here on earth. Most importantly, being obedient to YHVH’s commandments. This is very important to remember.

Conclusion

So how does this affect us in our time? We do not have slaves anymore, but we may have people owing us money, brothers and sisters in the faith. We can remit their debt. Just think of the impact it will have on another family if their debt is released. What a testimony of YHVH’s goodness!

Also, we may not be farmers, but we can keep the Sabbatical year by not buying the products that come off the land in the Sabbatical year. We can store up food and show YHVH that we want to be obedient. Each of us can choose the blessing or the curse. We can choose to be obedient or be disciplined as YHVH explained in Leviticus 26.

You may feel that you as an individual will not really make a difference. However, change starts with one person. Take the step and be that first person in your community, others will follow. Furthermore, you may be, as a result of keeping the Sabbatical year, the righteous who will have enough to satisfy his appetite. Let’s be good stewards and be obedient! It may have a greater impact than you would ever know.

References

  1. All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Y’shua for Jesus.
  2. Strong, J. (1997). New Strong’s guide to Bible words (electronic ed.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
  3. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
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Comments (2)

  • Geti

    |

    Shalom
    I have been following your website for some time and always read and thoroughly enjoy the articles posted for Shabbat. I thought I should write a short note thanking you for all the work you are doing in getting the truth out. Thank you for your faithfulness and for being a blessing to all and any who read your teachings!

    Reply

  • Andrew Lewis

    |

    Wow, how great is Our Abba & Elohim! After reading this, i am struck by His wisdom and knowledge; thinking of the socio-economic implications of this reality in the lives of His creation.

    Mentioning that “brother” only implies one in the faith, I think would be somewhat stretching, but I see where you are coming from. I recall Yeshua saying that He is not ashamed to call brothers those who are being made holy (Hebrews 2:11). But, than again – proverbs seems to point out several times that the righteous will not be in desperate need or in great hunger.

    On another note, I also remember Yeshua repeating what His father said while his feet were being washed and anointed by oil, “The poor you will always have among you…” (Matthew 26:11)

    I sense it right to remind each other that we actually do have slavery today and not on a small scale. Sex-trafficing being one of which I speak of.

    May the Fear and Dread of YHVH be on us all!

    Reply

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